NACCHO Media Release: Aboriginal community controlled health services are the key to reducing Hep C rates

22 January 2015

Aboriginal community controlled health services are the key to reducing Hep C rates

The peak Aboriginal health organisation will today tell a Senate inquiry today that more must be done to reduce the high rate of Hepatitis C infection among Aboriginal people.

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Lisa Briggs said the rate of new Hepatitis C infection continues to rise in Aboriginal populations even though it is falling for other Australians, and that Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services are the are key to reducing infection rates.

“Mainstream services are clearly failing Aboriginal people, who are three times as likely to become infected with Hepatitis C as other Australians,” said Ms Briggs.

“It is clear that more prevention and treatment programs are needed that meet the needs of Aboriginal people,” said Ms Briggs.

She said the main contributors to the increased rate of infection for Aboriginal people are higher rates of unsafe injecting drug use and higher rates of incarceration, with the prevalence of the disease in prisoners who inject drugs above 50%.

“Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services should play a bigger role in Hepatitis C prevention and treatment programs because they have proven to be the most effective providers of primary health care to Aboriginal people.

“These services need the funds and resources so they can provide prevention programs including needle exchange programs and opiate replacement therapy.

“A commitment to more outreach programs by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services into prisons will also help with infection rates in these populations.

“Hepatitis C rarely occurs in isolation.  Many patients are likely to have multiple health issues including mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction and type two diabetes. Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services have proven time and time again to be the best model to provide comprehensive primary health care for these complex needs.

“Hepatitis C infections are decreasing among other Australians and we want to see them decreasing among Aboriginal people, too.

“We look forward to working with the Government to ensure our Aboriginal medical services have the funds and resources to make this happen.”